Shoja Azari: Fake-Idyllic Life

November 14 – December 14, 2013

SHOJA AZARI

Idyllic Life (video still 4), 2012

HD video

Special effects and sound design: Johnny Azari

SHOJA AZARI 

Idyllic Life (video still 3), 2012

HD video

Special effects and sound design: Johnny Azari

SHOJA AZARI 

Idyllic Life (video still 2), 2012

HD video

Special effects and sound design: Johnny Azari

SHOJA AZARI 

Idyllic Life (video still), 2012

HD video

Special effects and sound design: Johnny Azari

SHOJA AZARI 

Fanatics of Tangier or The Muslim Rage, 2013

Oil on canvas

62 x 82 in / 157.5 x 208.2 cm

SHOJA AZARI 

The Dance of Alema or The Ugly Hamza, 2013

Oil on canvas

58 x 40 in / 147.3 x 101.6 cm

SHOJA AZARI 

The Snake Charmer or The Anatomy of the 21st Century Savage, 2013

Oil on canvas

58 x 40 in / 147.3 x 101.6 cm

SHOJA AZARI 

Oriental Bath or Bunnies R Us, 2013

Oil on canvas

35 x 22 in / 88.9 x 55.9 cm

SHOJA AZARI

Oriental Interior or Bunnies R Us, 2013

Oil on canvas

28 x 22 in / 71.1 x 55.9 cm

SHOJA AZARI 

Toil (The King of Black), 2013

Lenticular 3D depth on acrylic sheet

30 x 41.5 in / 76.x 2 105.41 cm

SHOJA AZARI

Hijlah or Unconsummated Love (The King of Black), 2013

Lenticular 3D depth on acrylic sheet

30 x 41.5 in / 76.2 x 105.41 cm

SHOJA AZARI 

The Mourners (The King of Black), 2013

Lenticular 3D depth on acrylic sheet

30 x 41.5 in / 76.2 x 105.41 cm

SHOJA AZARI 

The Heavenly Bed (The King of Black), 2013

Lenticular 3D depth on acrylic sheet

30 x 41.5 in / 76.2 x 105.41 cm

SHOJA AZARI 

Queen of Houries (The King of Black), 2013

Lenticular 3D depth on acrylic sheet

30 x 41.5 in / 76.2 x 105.41 cm

SHOJA AZARI 

The King of Black, 2013

HD video with sound; 24 minutes

Sound design and musical arrangement: Johnny Azari

Original score composed and performed by C. Ryan McVinney

SHOJA AZARI 

Banquette of Houries, (The King of Black), 2013

Lenticular 3D depth on acrylic sheet

30 x 41.5 in / 76.x 2 105.41 cm

Press Release

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Faced with an increasingly hostile world governed by identity politics, I approached this new series as a way to examine assigned and reassigned identities in relationship to power, by finding the proper visual and literary context as it relates to now and to the past. As roles and assignments shift, I wanted to ensure that a thread of visual continuity exists while also bringing new context and meaning within each historical epoch.” -- Shoja Azari

 

 

Leila Heller Gallery is pleased to present new painting installations and video works by Shoja Azari that seamlessly intertwine myth with reality, quotation with intervention in order to examine the integral roles played by history and context in depictions of the Islamic world. Originally trained as a filmmaker and as a video artist, Azari over the last seven years has been incorporating elements of the moving picture with brush strokes to create a distinctive body of work that redefines filmmaking while conceptually and formally subverting the classic definition of painting.

 

In his most recent video, The King of Black (25 min., 2013), Azari defies the boundaries between two- and three-dimensional media by treating his projection screen as a standalone canvas rife with imagery that references classic Persian and Orientalist painting, accompanied by text and audio components reminiscent of Western silent films. Based on a chapter from the learned Persian poet Nizami Ganjav’s Haft Paykar or “Seven Beauties” (1197), an epic which explores timeless, universal themes involving the impossible quest for perfection and limitations of the ego, The King of Black chronicles Sassanid King Bahram V’s journey for self-knowledge; a Paradise found and lost. Through staged live action set against tableaus largely formed from digitally reconstructed 16th- century Persian miniature paintings rendered in hyper-saturated hues, Azari conveys the Islamic conception of Heaven as both extraordinary, enchanted, and yet, merely an illusion.

 

Azari continues to merge past and present, faith and fable in Idyllic Life (2012). In this video projected on canvas, he masterfully moves backwards and forwards through time and space within the narrative, merging digitized vignettes of court and bazaar life taken from 16th- century Persian miniature painting with random scenes of contemporary violence and conflict excerpted from YouTube. (Cont.)

 

Overtly mythical portraits of the Arab world are also prominently featured subjects in Azari’s painting installations on view. Here, classic Orientalist paintings become the fodder for a mischievous, multilayered critique of the traditional Western gaze into Muslim identity and its legacy. In one grouping, two of the genre’s most celebrated paintings: Jean-Léon Gérôme's The Snake Charmer (1870) and Eugène Delacroix’s Fanatics of Tangier (1838) are meticulously replicated, albeit altered by introducing some striking anomalies. Fueled by notions of exoticism, two paintings of the harem – one of the most influential Orientalist tropes championed during the Napoleonic and Victorian ages -- receive an updated, pin-up style makeover. Papering the surrounding gallery walls with imagery composed from random Google searches related to terrorism, Azari concludes that the West’s inability to move beyond their basic assumptions about Islam is perhaps unavoidable in this online age where context often trumps content.

 

An illustrated exhibition catalogue will features essays by Negar Azimi, Senior Editor of Bidoun Magazine, and Alexandra Keller, Associate Professor of Film Studies and Director of Film Studies Program at Smith College.

 

Born in Shiraz, Iran in 1958, Shoja Azari is an artist and filmmaker who has lived in New York since 1983. His work has been exhibited globally, with solo shows throughout Europe and North America. Azari has participated in exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, at museums such as the Haus der Kulturen, Germany and the MUSAC, Spain, and at art fairs including Art Basel, Switzerland, ARCO, Spain, and Art Dubai, UAE. His works are in the permanent collections of various museums and foundations, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), USA, and the Farjam Collection, UAE. Since 1997, he has collaborated with Shirin Neshat on film and video installations including Women Without Men, which won the Silver Lion for best director at the 2009 Venice Film Festival. Azari has also collaborated with Shahram Karimi on video paintings, which project video on painted surfaces.